Researchers develop new augmented reality app to assess spatial memory

Researchers of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) and the University of Zaragoza have developed an augmented reality app to assess spatial memory. Among its uses, it could be utilised for people with Alzheimer's disease, as a tool for the analysis and training of skills linked to said memory - as long as the patient is not in an advanced stage of the disease. It could also be of great help during childhood, for the early identification of disorders related to spatial memory. The work of the UPV and Unizar researchers has ben published in the journal IEEE Access.

"Short-term spatial memory is the ability people have to retain and remember the location of elements for relatively short periods of time, and it is the one that comes into play when remembering where we left the keys, a screwdriver or some glasses, for example," explains Mª Carmen Juan, researcher of the ai2 Institute of the UPV.

The device on which the application is installed recognises the surroundings where it is being used and the location where the items were left. Furthermore, it can be taken to the patient's home and personalised with any items, "which represents a great advantage, as it suits each user's pace of life", stresses Fran Muñóz, fellow ai2 researcher.

In the case of using the app for training, it could help physicians assess spatial memory by searching for common items of the daily lives of these patients, such as shoes or a hat.

Magdalena Méndez López and Camino Fidalgo, researchers of the department of Psychology and Sociology of the University of Zaragoza, highlight that the app will improve the techniques that are currently used for memory training "because it makes it possible to carry out remembering exercises on where items are left within the patient's home, in other words, in the real context where the same difficulties appear. Furthermore, with small modifications, the complexity of the exercise can be increased to make it more motivating."

The first phase has already been completed, with the application being tested on 55 people. During this year, another two pilot studies will take place with patients suffering from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

"The following phases will try to take a step further with the possibilities offered by applications developed heretofore and involve other senses, such as hearing or touch, to assess spatial memory," concludes Mª Carmen Juan.

The development of this app is within the framework of the AR3Senses project, funded by MINECO and co-funded with FEDER funds.

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